#367 Senior Citizens Caught In The War On Drugs

Date: Wed, 28 May 2008
Subject: #367 Senior Citizens Caught In The War On Drugs

SENIOR CITIZENS CAUGHT IN THE WAR ON DRUGS

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #367 – Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Below the Florida Times-Union Senior Columnist Tonya Weathersbee
provides a disturbing analysis of an aspect of the failure of the War
on Drugs.

Please consider writing and sending a Letter to the Editor of the
Florida Times Union expressing your reaction to this column.

Thanks for your effort and support. It’s not what others do it’s what
YOU do.

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Contact: Florida Times-Union

http://www.jacksonville.com/aboutus/letters_to_editor.shtml

Pubdate: Mon, 26 May 2008
Source: Florida Times-Union (FL)
Copyright: 2008 The Florida Times-Union
Author: Tonyaa Weathersbee, The Times-Union

SOME ARE DRIVEN TO CRIME BY ECONOMIC DESPERATION

Ruth Davis says she isn’t on drugs. But she was desperate.

She’s also a cautionary tale.

According to a recent McClatchy News Service story, the Miami
grandmother is sitting in a North Carolina jail. She’s been there
since December. That was when a state trooper nabbed her as she was
transporting 33 pounds of marijuana to New York.

He stopped Davis for speeding, but then noticed a strong odor as she
rolled down her car window. Her answers to the trooper’s questions
about her travel plans didn’t jibe.

So he asked if he could search her car. She agreed. But Davis didn’t
know he was going to call the dogs to help him look.

Game over.

Drug enforcement officials say that people like Davis, who is 65, are
becoming part of a trend; that drug dealers are now recruiting elderly
people to carry drugs because there’s less of a chance that they will
be stopped or profiled. There’s also the chance that police will be
disarmed by their sweetness and vulnerability. Davis, in fact, said
that she had hoped to charm her way out of a speeding ticket.

I almost wish that had worked for her. Because it wasn’t greed that
made Davis agree to become a drug mule.

It was pain.

It was the pain of not being able to pay the $20,000-plus that she
owed doctors for treatment of a blood disease. It was the pain of
seeing her daughter’s face disfigured from a car crash, and not being
able to help her pay the $3,000 needed for corrective plastic surgery.
It was the pain that a person feels when hitting rock bottom with no
safety net to catch her.

It’s a pain that has been exploited by drug dealers who recruit the
desperate and the defeated.

And just as the drug trade has become the dominant economy for many
poor, inner-city communities, it’s not surprising that as other safety
nets begin to fray, more people will grab on to anything to stop their
free fall.

In Davis’ case, that meant grabbing onto the promises of a drug
dealer.

Me, I’m not all that surprised that some elderly folks would be
vulnerable to that kind of coercion.

In some neighborhoods in which drug dealers are the closest thing to
philanthropists that most people there will ever see, they help some
old people pay bills. But while Davis wasn’t exactly poor – she said
she owns her own home and works as a diet consultant – her medical
bills apparently still made it hard for her to make ends meet.

And, in case we forget, soaring medical bills can plunge anyone into
poverty. Or it can push them to make thoughtless choices.

So when I see cases such as hers, I’m reminded of how the drug trade
is fueled by different degrees of hopelessness.

In the inner cities, you have kids who work as drug sellers and
lookouts because few know the lure of legitimate work, because not
much of that exists where they live. Then you have some people who
sell drugs to supplement low-wage jobs. Unlike Davis, they aren’t
casualties of an emergency as much as they are casualties of an
illicit economy that has usurped the legitimate economy.

Then there’s the hopelessness that turned Davis into a drug
mule.

Such hopelessness is the kind that overwhelms people who are being let
down by what many have come to view as guarantees in American life;
that if you pay your bills, obey the law, drink your milk and say your
prayers, the system won’t allow misfortunes like medical emergencies
to make you destitute.

Now I know that not every senior citizen who is faced with hardships
is going to sell drugs. Yet, Davis’ story still is a revealing one.

Among other things, it illustrates, once again, the failure of the war
on drugs. We fill our prisons and jails with nonviolent offenders like
Davis – a woman who, ironically, became a felon to avoid becoming a
deadbeat – as the kingpins go free.

And even as people like Davis sit in jail, Americans continue to use
drugs at about the same rate as they did when President Nixon declared
a war on drugs in 1971.

As long as that continues to happen, and as long as jobs continue to
hemorrhage and medical costs continue to spiral, people will look for
ways to survive.

And the drug lords will be waiting.

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